EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker 'not optimistic' about avoiding no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
21st February 2019

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted he has little hope that the UK and EU will avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Jean-Claude Juncker met with Theresa May yesterday
Credit: 
PA Images

The European Commission president lamented that the two sides were unlikely to reach a deal MPs will be willing to support.

And he warned that a no-deal departure from the bloc would have “terrible economic and social consequences, both in Britain and on the continent”.

Theresa May warns of race against the clock as talks with EU chief fail to break Brexit deadlock

Westminster stunned as three anti-Brexit Tory MPs quit and join the Independent Group

Theresa May calms Brexiteer revolt as she heads to Brussels in search of breakthrough

Downing Street insisted both sides were working together “with energy” to secure a deal the Commons could back.

MPs last month sent the Prime Minister back to the negotiating table to tweak the controversial backstop plan which ensures the Northern Ireland border will stay open in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Critics of the plan - which would see Britain remain in a customs union with the bloc - argue it could leave the country tied to EU rules indefinitely and could trigger the breakup of the UK.

Mrs May has asked the EU for legal guarantees that would see a time-limit imposed on the backstop or the creation of a unilateral exit mechanism for Britain.

But Mr Juncker said he was not hopeful the EU would be able to offer anything to the UK that a majority of MPs will be able to back in Parliament.

“We are trying to deliver our best efforts in order to have this Brexit being organised in a proper, civilised, well-thought-out way,” he told a committee in Brussels today.

“But we are not there, because in the British Parliament there is, every time they are voting, a majority against something, there is never a majority in favour of something.”

He added: “If a no-deal would happen - and I can’t exclude this - this would have terrible economic and social consequences, both in Britain and on the continent, and so my efforts orient in a way that the worst can be avoided.

“But I am not very optimistic when it comes to this issue.”

Responding to the comments, Downing Street said: “There is clearly more work to do but it is still very much the position of the European Union that they want the United Kingdom to leave with a deal.

“That means everyone working together with energy in order to secure the assurances which parliament needs.”

Mrs May held talks with Mr Juncker in Brussels yesterday but failed to secure a breakthrough on the backstop.